A conservative legal group has quickly pledged a lawsuit to stop New Jersey’s ban on homosexual conversion therapy for minors, which Republican Gov. Chris Christie signed into law yesterday.
Liberty Counsel, a group litigating pro-family and religious freedom causes, announced it would fight the ban it called “absurd and dangerous.”
“This bill is so broad that parents would be prohibited from seeking help for their son who developed unwanted same-sex attractions after being molested by the likes of Jerry Sandusky,” Liberty Counsel president Mat Staver said in a statement. “Counselors would only be allowed to affirm these unwanted feelings as good and normal.”
Staver said the law infringes on the First Amendment rights of counselors who should be able to offer advice consistent with their religious beliefs.
Christie said he “reluctantly” signed the bill because of expert consensus that conversion therapy—also called reparative therapy—is harmful. He cited American Psychological Association (APA) findings to back his action. He also reiterated his believe that people are born gay and homosexuality is not a sin.
But the consensus isn’t unanimous, even among gay-affirming therapists: Last month, Nicholas Cummings—a former APA president who led the effort to declassify homosexuality as a mental disorder—wrote a USA Today op-ed saying the issue has been politicized. He said although change is difficult, he has personally helped hundreds of clients reverse their sexual orientation.
“Gay and lesbian rights activists appear to be convincing the public that homosexuality is one identical inherited characteristic,” Cummings wrote. “Contending that all same-sex attraction is immutable is a distortion of reality.”
New Jersey’s ban on conversion therapy follows in the footsteps of a similar law California passed last year. That ban would have gone into effect Jan. 1, but Liberty Counsel won an injunction from a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Liberty Counsel said no viewpoint-based restriction on private speech has ever been upheld, citing a Supreme Court ruling that “the First Amendment forbids the government to regulate speech in ways that favor some viewpoints or ideas at the expense of others.”